Humanities’ Search for Meaning

When I was leading a University of the Third Age (U3A) group about retirement (called Retired: Now What?) I was doing some online research on the topics I wanted to cover: how we use our time; meaning; purpose; relationships etc.

The Positive Psychology ‘movement’ (Martin Seligman PhD) has developed a model called PERMA. I was pretty excited about this formula that seemed to cover many aspects of life. PERMA is an acronym for: Positive emotions; Engagement; Relationships; Meaning; and Accomplishment.

I also came across an article of an interview where Viktor Frankl was asked how he felt about the success of his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. His answer was very telling. He said (paraphrased by me) he was alarmed that the topic hit a nerve with so many people and it emphasised how much we DO search for meaning.

This awareness (of the search for meaning) is one of life’s universal experiences even if we are not consciously aware of it. I don’t ever envisage waking up one day and finding the answers but I will continue to enjoy the journey and keep asking the questions.

consciousness

SO, guess what my next U3A course is going to be? It is a shift from looking at psychology to studying and discussing philosophy. I have been interested in philosophy for about fifteen years and read a few books on this very large topic! One in  particular is written by Alain De Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy, and published by Penguin Books. We will be using this book as the basis for the course. Here is an excerpt from the author’s website.

The Consolations of Philosophy

In Ancient Greece or Rome, philosophers were seen as natural authorities on the most pressing questions. However, since then, the idea of finding wisdom from philosophy has come to seem bizarre. Enter a university department today and ask to study wisdom, and you will politely but firmly be shown the door. The Consolations of Philosophy sets out to refute the notion that good philosophy must be irrelevant and gathers together six great philosophers who were convinced of the power of philosophical insight to work a practical effect on our lives.

Course starts on 18 July.

 

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